Those of us who have served full time missions in the past remember the excitement as we first walked through the doors of the MTC with our families and had the fluorescent sticker stuck on us to identify us as the missionary as we went into a large room with our parents to a quick orientation, after which our family exited out one door and we went through another to start our mission. It was always an emotional time, and one that is remembered with nostalgia.
Now, things have changed, and missionaries are dropped curbside, or put on a plane for a foreign land where they arrive at the MTCs around the world on their own--ready to serve.
The whole MTC process is so much more streamlined than before, that more missionaries can come and go more quickly through their training and be out in the field sooner. It's exciting to have this happen in our lifetimes. It's exciting that the Lord is hastening his work. Seeing that He is making use of the concentrated resources of the MTCs worldwide is moving.
Years ago as an MTC teacher, I was surprised to see how many missionaries were unprepared to be in the mission field. Many had never even read the Book of Mormon cover to cover, or sought to find their own testimonies. I could always see a difference between those that were ready to serve, bursting with desire to testify of Christ, and those who were going because it was expected. Even more surprising were those that had a testimony, but let their nervousness to be away from home cut their MTC experience and mission short.
Here are some suggestions (in my opinion) of just a few of the things that will prepare a missionary for success in the MTC, and also success in the field.
1. Gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.
2. Read the Book of Mormon cover to cover a few times.
3. Study the Standard Works of the church.
4. Be familiar with basic gospel principles.
5. Read and study Preach My Gospel, and have working knowledge of how to use it.
6. Be organized and disciplined in your study habits, so that you can maximize them as a missionary.
7. Overcome fear of public speaking or sharing your feelings with others.
8. Take opportunities in your youth to be away from home for a time. Often missionaries who struggle with this are those who have never been away or lived away from home.
9. Learn to be obedient.
10. Learn to live without constant attachment to technology, or with prudent use of technology.
Obviously, this list is not complete by any means. There is so much more that could be said about not only preparing for life in the MTC, but life as a missionary. The skills you gain to prepare for a mission, not only will ensure your success as an emissary of the Lord, but in life.
May the Lord bless all of the missionaries currently serving, and may we all find a way to participate as His work unfolds on the earth.